“Sir, will you take my father’s arm? He feels weak and I am not strong.” I took the reins and Louis, springing to the ground, stepped between, and each taking his arm they walked together up to the door of our home where Aunt Hildy, mother, father, Ben, Hal and Mary, Mrs. Davis, Jane North and Aunt Peg, waited to receive them. When Matthias saw Peg he said:
“Come, Peg, come and kiss him; this is my John sure enuf.” Supper waited and the table was spread for all. Mr. Davis gave thanks and spoke feelingly of the one among us who had been delivered from the yoke of bondage, saying:
“May we be able to prove ourselves worthy of his great love, and confidence, and be forever mindful of all those both in the North and South who wait, as he has waited, for deliverance.” Matthias grew calm, and when they left us to walk home, Louis and I went with them. On the road over John said to Louis:
“Sir, I am greatly indebted to you, and I am anxious to go to work at once and pay my debt.”
“You owe me nothing,” said Louis; “I have no claim upon your money or time; I will help you in every way possible, and my reward will be found in the great joy and comfort you will bring to your father in his old age.”
“This is too much,” said John.
“Not enough,” said Louis, and at Aunt Peg’s vine-covered lattice ’neath which he stood, we said good-night and turned toward home, while in our hearts lay mirrored, another fadeless picture.
How the days of this year flew past us, we were borne along swiftly on their wings, and every week was filled to overflowing with pleasant care and work. John was called in the South after his master’s name, but now he said, inasmuch as he had left him and the old home in Newbern, it would seem better to him to be called by his father’s name, and so he took his place among us as John Jones. He went to work with a will, became a great friend to Ben and helped him wonderfully, for between the saw-mill, the farm with its stock-raising and broom trade, which really was getting to be a good business, Ben was more than busy.
John was a mechanic naturally; he was clever at most anything he put his mind on, “and never tried to get shet of work;” and his daily work proved his worth among us. Matthias worked and sang the long days through, and all was bright and beautiful before him. He tried to think John’s angel mother could look down from “hevin” on him, and it gave him pleasure to feel so.
When the fall came John said to Louis:
“I want to know something. I promised the boys and gals that when I got free I’d speak a few words for them, and I must learn something.”
So he came regularly to Louis through the winter evenings, and in a little time he could send a readable letter to the friends down South. Newbern was a nice place, had nice people, he told us, and he had been well treated and permitted to learn to read, but the writing he could not find time to master; he was skilful in figures, and Louis was very proud of his rapid improvement.